By Jenny Connelly, Sidley Austin LLP, National Legal Recruiting Director
By the time you are reading this, you will have already received some sage advice about preparing for OCI. You’ve likely attended a few career services office presentations and had conversations with previous summer associates or law school alumni who have worked for the employers of interest to you, all providing you with insight into the process of selecting firms and preparing for interviews. We encourage you to heed that advice, as well as think beyond the OCI process and not make it as complicated as it may seem.
To help ease you through the process, here are some practical thoughts from a law firm’s perspective:
1. Don’t be afraid to fail. Instead, take every opportunity presented to you as a chance to succeed. For example, a number of firms, including ours, coordinate many on-campus receptions throughout the school year. Sadly, some students tend to think about these firm events as opportunities to … mess up.
“What if I say something wrong or address someone by the wrong name? What if I have spinach in my teeth while I’m talking to the Managing Partner of the firm where I really want to work?”
Fortunately, law firms put a lot of time and effort into these receptions, so they really want you to come and meet them. Even if you don’t enjoy these types of events, we recommend that you still make an appearance in order to connect with one of the attending lawyers. They could potentially alleviate the unknowns of your upcoming interview.
Meeting new people, especially successful people in the legal profession, can seem daunting and test the boundaries of your comfort zone. However, we encourage you to take those risks now. When you’re a practicing lawyer, these experiences become a necessary part of your everyday interactions.
Don’t skip opportunities to get to know potential employers just because there is a chance something may go wrong. You never know: with time and preparation, things could go amazingly right. At the very least, you will meet interesting people and also learn a lot about yourself.
2. Set yourself up for success. Take your time in researching law firms. They come in all shapes and sizes, with different practices and cultures. Look at their preferred qualifications and assess whether your academic performance and work history meet those standards. Before the interview, ask yourself the hard questions and figure out where you belong and where you would be the most productive. Be your best advocate—but also be realistic. Define the things that are most important to you and let those guide your research.
3. Make the most of your interview. On campus, lawyers are generally interviewing candidates for more than seven hours with very few breaks. It’s a long day for them, so try to make your interview interesting and fun. Be sure to ask compelling questions. Firms want to know what you bring to the table that isn’t obvious from your resume and how you would fit into their existing culture. Show the interviewer you’ve done your research by asking substantive questions and leave them with the impression that you’re interested in things other than what you have read on the firm’s website.
Think about adding some of the questions below to your OCI-interviewing arsenal:
- “What policies and principles are in place to sustain the firm’s culture?”
- “Are your reasons for staying at the firm the same as when you joined? If not, how are they different?”
- “How has the firm changed since you joined it?”
- “Is there anything you wish you had known about the firm when you were interviewing (i.e., what is the one question you wish you had asked)?”
- “How did you decide on your practice area, and how does it continue to pique your interest?”
4. Be your best you. OCI can be a hectic and exhausting time, so take steps that will help you feel confident and energized throughout the process. Make your life as uncomplicated as possible so you come to your interviews refreshed. Don’t add obligations to your calendar in August if instead they can be handled in September. Be sure to get enough sleep and exercise, eat healthy, and stay hydrated, positive, and engaged. Focus on your professionalism: be on time for events and interviews, and always respond to firm phone calls and emails as promptly as possible. It’s important that you are remembered for the strength of your interview, but don’t shy away from having a little fun with your personal style or adding some flair to the traditional suit that careers services advises you to wear. Employers want you to be yourself, but they also expect you to be at your best.
Wishing you the best of luck on the upcoming OCI season!
This is a sponsored blog post from Sidley Austin LLP. You can view Sidley's Vault profile here.
Follow Vault Law on Twitter @VaultLaw and follow Vault on Instagram @VaultCareers and Facebook